Finally, an easy day! Today was the day when our plans diverted from the original itinerary. Our original plan was to go offtrail from Sapphire Lake and head over McGee Pass and into McGee Lakes. Solitude and fishing in a beautiful location was the goal, but the weather and effort to get over Lamarck had worn us down a bit, and the snow/ice that had fallen in the higher terrain the previous day had us a bit concerned about any boulder-hopping and cross-country travel.
Instead, we decided to stick to trail and take it easy for the rest of the trip. We followed the John Muir Trail through Evolution Valley, down to the valley containing the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. Following the river gorge for a few miles, we found a nice campsite along the river (and before the crowds near the bridge where it joins Piute Canyon).
This entirely uneventful day only resulted in one real story. During our time in Evolution Basin we had encountered two different groups of JMT hikers who had complained about the same experience in Evolution Valley. The Valley is popular with packers, and both of these backpackers had experienced wandering, untied stock horses coming through their camps in the middle of the night. While at first that may not sound too bad, these horses had cow bells clanging noisily at 3 am, they tripped over tents, and crapped right in front of one guy’s tent. Not cool. So as we wandered through the Valley what did we hear? The clanging of cowbells. Sure enough, we came across a herd of stock horses wandering loose. To be fair, the horses looked far happier than they do when I encounter them with riders and hauling gear, but packers aren’t earning any bonus points with backpackers when causing that kind of trouble.